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The Woman He's Been Waiting For - fb3_img_img_48de2f80-7ae8-5e22-9ca3-743242d2a6fd.jpg

“We’re just your average, run-of-the-mill GP’s surgery, and I find it very hard to understand why Harry would offer to work here. So you tell me what’s in it for Harry?”

“The pleasure of your company?”

Grace spun around when a familiar voice cut into the conversation. She spotted Harry lounging in the doorway. It had been some time since she’d seen him, but he’d changed very little from what she could tell. As her eyes skimmed over the coal-black hair, the marine-blue eyes, the clean-cut jaw, she couldn’t stop the appreciative flutter her nerves gave, a warning that she was as susceptible as any woman to Harry Shaw’s undeniable charms.

Dear Reader,

Some books demand to be written and others require a little more time for the story to develop. The Woman He’s Been Waiting For falls into the latter category.

I first had the idea for this book three years ago and sat down to write it with great enthusiasm. However, although I loved Harry and Grace from the moment they appeared on the page, I just couldn’t make them behave the way I wanted them to. They are both such determined characters that they insisted on doing things their own way! In the end, I abandoned the book, but at the back of my mind I always knew that I would go back to it one day. I’m glad that I did because it has turned out to be one of my very favorite stories.

Both Harry and Grace have a lot of baggage left over from their past lives, and they are both afraid to confront the main issue, which is that they are deeply attracted to each other. For years they have traded insults in an attempt to disguise their feelings but when they agree to work together to help a mutual friend, they are finally forced to acknowledge how they feel about one another.

It isn’t an easy process—they have an extremely rough ride along the way! However, I felt when I reached the end of the book that they had found the happiness they both deserved.

I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Love,

Jennifer

The Woman He’s Been Waiting For

Jennifer Taylor

The Woman He's Been Waiting For - fb3_img_img_64388c7e-788c-5ea5-98a8-a062f259b3fc.png

www.millsandboon.co.uk

CONTENTS

Cover

Dear Reader

Title Page

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

‘WHAT do you mean Harry Shaw has offered to work here?’

Dr Grace Kennedy couldn’t conceal her astonishment as she rounded on her partner, Miles Farrington. It was the end of a particularly stressful week at Ferndale Surgery and she and Miles had been trying to come up with a solution to their latest crisis when he had dropped his bombshell. Not only had their locum upped and left on New Year’s Eve without giving them notice but yesterday their practice nurse had tripped and broken her ankle.

It would be some while before Alison was fit to return to work. In the meantime, they would have to manage without a nurse because they would never be able to find a replacement at this time of the year. There were a lot of reasons, in fact, why Grace was in no mood to play silly games.

‘The same Harry Shaw who once said that only people without ambition went into general practice? Oh, this has to be a joke, Miles, please.’

‘I don’t recall Harry saying that about general practice…’ Miles broke off when Grace glared at him. ‘Harry was probably winding you up. You know what he’s like. Anyway, he phoned me last night to say that he was in the area so I invited him round for a drink and just happened to mention the problems we were having during the course of the conversation. I was as surprised as you are when he offered his services, but you have to admit it would be the ideal solution. Oh, I know that you and Harry didn’t exactly hit it off at med school—’

‘And whose fault was that?’ Grace paced across the room then swung round and scowled at her partner. ‘Harry Shaw was a complete waste of space, in my opinion. The only thing he was interested in was seeing how many women he could sweet-talk into his bed.’

‘Mmm, he did have rather an effect on the ladies,’ Miles observed admiringly. He cleared his throat when he saw Grace’s expression darken. ‘But, all that aside, you have to admit that Harry was one of the brightest students in our year. It was the same during our pre-reg training when we were at Leeds together. It was Harry who was tipped for great things and he’s achieved them, too. You must have followed his progress over the years, surely?’

Grace ignored the question. She had no intention of admitting that she’d been keeping tabs on Harry. To be frank, she wasn’t sure why she’d bothered when she disliked the wretched man so much. Maybe it had been a way to prove to herself that she didn’t care about professional glory and only wanted to do her job to the very best of her ability, but she could have recited Harry’s CV from memory: the youngest consultant ever appointed to a post; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians; member of the new government health service advisory committee…

вернуться

Dear Reader,

Some books demand to be written and others require a little more time for the story to develop. The Woman He’s Been Waiting For falls into the latter category.

I first had the idea for this book three years ago and sat down to write it with great enthusiasm. However, although I loved Harry and Grace from the moment they appeared on the page, I just couldn’t make them behave the way I wanted them to. They are both such determined characters that they insisted on doing things their own way! In the end, I abandoned the book, but at the back of my mind I always knew that I would go back to it one day. I’m glad that I did because it has turned out to be one of my very favorite stories.

Both Harry and Grace have a lot of baggage left over from their past lives, and they are both afraid to confront the main issue, which is that they are deeply attracted to each other. For years they have traded insults in an attempt to disguise their feelings but when they agree to work together to help a mutual friend, they are finally forced to acknowledge how they feel about one another.

It isn’t an easy process—they have an extremely rough ride along the way! However, I felt when I reached the end of the book that they had found the happiness they both deserved.

I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Love,

Jennifer

вернуться

The Woman He’s Been Waiting For

Jennifer Taylor

The Woman He's Been Waiting For - fb3_img_img_64388c7e-788c-5ea5-98a8-a062f259b3fc.png

www.millsandboon.co.uk

вернуться

‘WHAT do you mean Harry Shaw has offered to work here?’

Dr Grace Kennedy couldn’t conceal her astonishment as she rounded on her partner, Miles Farrington. It was the end of a particularly stressful week at Ferndale Surgery and she and Miles had been trying to come up with a solution to their latest crisis when he had dropped his bombshell. Not only had their locum upped and left on New Year’s Eve without giving them notice but yesterday their practice nurse had tripped and broken her ankle.

It would be some while before Alison was fit to return to work. In the meantime, they would have to manage without a nurse because they would never be able to find a replacement at this time of the year. There were a lot of reasons, in fact, why Grace was in no mood to play silly games.

‘The same Harry Shaw who once said that only people without ambition went into general practice? Oh, this has to be a joke, Miles, please.’

‘I don’t recall Harry saying that about general practice…’ Miles broke off when Grace glared at him. ‘Harry was probably winding you up. You know what he’s like. Anyway, he phoned me last night to say that he was in the area so I invited him round for a drink and just happened to mention the problems we were having during the course of the conversation. I was as surprised as you are when he offered his services, but you have to admit it would be the ideal solution. Oh, I know that you and Harry didn’t exactly hit it off at med school—’

‘And whose fault was that?’ Grace paced across the room then swung round and scowled at her partner. ‘Harry Shaw was a complete waste of space, in my opinion. The only thing he was interested in was seeing how many women he could sweet-talk into his bed.’

‘Mmm, he did have rather an effect on the ladies,’ Miles observed admiringly. He cleared his throat when he saw Grace’s expression darken. ‘But, all that aside, you have to admit that Harry was one of the brightest students in our year. It was the same during our pre-reg training when we were at Leeds together. It was Harry who was tipped for great things and he’s achieved them, too. You must have followed his progress over the years, surely?’

Grace ignored the question. She had no intention of admitting that she’d been keeping tabs on Harry. To be frank, she wasn’t sure why she’d bothered when she disliked the wretched man so much. Maybe it had been a way to prove to herself that she didn’t care about professional glory and only wanted to do her job to the very best of her ability, but she could have recited Harry’s CV from memory: the youngest consultant ever appointed to a post; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians; member of the new government health service advisory committee…

‘Then why does he want to work here?’ Grace blanked out the rest of Harry’s glittering résumé because it really wasn’t relevant. She fixed Miles with a look that made him squirm but she refused to feel guilty. Once Miles got an idea into his head, it was difficult to make him see sense, but there was no way that she was going to agree to his latest proposal.

‘Just look at the facts, Miles. We run a very busy rural practice here. We don’t take private patients and we certainly don’t have any VIPs on our list. We’re just your average, run-of-the-mill GPs’ surgery and I find it hard to understand why Harry would offer to work here. So you tell me, what’s in it for Harry?’

‘The pleasure of your company?’

Grace spun round when a familiar voice cut into the conversation. Her mouth thinned when she spotted Harry lounging in the doorway. It had been some time since she’d seen him but he’d changed very little from what she could tell. As her eyes skimmed over the coal-black hair, the marine-blue eyes, the clean-cut jaw, she couldn’t stop the appreciative flutter her nerves gave, a warning that she was as susceptible as any woman to Harry Shaw’s undoubted charms. The difference was that she knew what he was really like and she wasn’t about to be taken in by good looks and a nice line in chat.

‘I’m flattered, Harry. Or I would be if I was fool enough to believe you.’ She treated him to a chilly smile which wavered when she saw the expression that crossed his face. Good heavens, surely Harry’s feelings hadn’t been hurt by that remark.

‘Harry, good to see you again. I was beginning to wonder if you’d got lost. I’m hopeless at giving people directions, I’m afraid.’ Miles leapt to his feet and rushed across the room to greet him.

Grace dismissed that fanciful notion when she realised what her partner had said. She looked accusingly at him as he led Harry over to the desk. ‘You never mentioned that you’d invited Harry here tonight.’

‘Didn’t I? Purely an oversight, I assure you.’ Miles fussed around, fetching a chair and taking Harry’s overcoat. He hung it on the peg behind the door then looked pleadingly at Grace. ‘I know we haven’t had time to discuss this, but you know as well as I do that we desperately need help. I’ve been onto the agency every single day this week about hiring another locum but they simply haven’t got anyone on their books willing to relocate at this time of the year. Nobody wants to spend the winter months in such a remote part of the country, apparently.’

‘So what you’re saying is that it’s Harry or nothing,’ Grace said sweetly.

‘Well, I wouldn’t put it quite like that,’ Miles blustered in embarrassment, although Harry didn’t seem the least perturbed by her bluntness.

‘Why not, if it’s true?’ He clapped Miles on the shoulder then smiled at Grace. ‘A bit of a dilemma for you, isn’t it? It’s a choice between letting me loose on your patients or going under. I’d find it very difficult to choose in your shoes, too, Gracie.’

‘Don’t call me that.’ She sat down behind her desk and glared at him. ‘You know how I hate stupid nicknames.’

‘Sorry.’

He didn’t sound sorry but short of making a fuss and thereby letting him think he’d scored a point, there was nothing she could do about it. She smiled up at him, her grey eyes colder than the January sky outside the consulting-room window. ‘Apology accepted. So shall we start from the beginning? Why have you offered to work here when you made it abundantly clear in the past what you thought about general practice?’

‘Because you and Miles need a helping hand.’

Harry sat down and crossed one long leg over the other as he waited for her next sally. Grace wasn’t fool enough to go rushing in unprepared, however. She took the time to study him instead.

He was as impeccably dressed as ever, she noted sourly, the black suit he was wearing obviously not something he’d picked up off the peg. He’d teamed it with a pale blue shirt and a jaunty red and blue silk tie that must have cost a small fortune, but, then, money had never been a problem for Harry because his family was loaded. Harry was used to having the best of everything and it showed.

By contrast, poor Miles looked even more dishevelled than usual. Miles had been struggling to cope since his wife, Penny, had found out last month that she was pregnant. Penny had lost a baby only the previous year and they were both desperate that she didn’t lose this one, so Miles had insisted that Penny must do as little as possible during the first trimester. However, it had put him under even more pressure and it was starting to show.

Grace knew that Miles had been doing far too much, but there was little she could do to help when her own workload seemed to be increasing on an almost daily basis. The truth was that the practice was getting far too big for the two of them to manage. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad, having Harry here, if it gave them a respite, she conceded grudgingly.

‘How about a cup of coffee?’ Miles suggested, jumping up. He rubbed his chest and grimaced. ‘That’ll teach me to bolt my lunch. I’ve had indigestion all afternoon. I’d better take some antacids while I’m at it.’

‘Don’t go to any trouble on my account,’ Harry said easily. ‘I’ll be having dinner when I get back to the hotel.’

‘Oh, it’s no trouble. Anyway, it will give you and Grace a chance to talk and see if you can reach a compromise.’ Miles turned to her and Grace could see the beseeching look in his eyes. ‘Just don’t say no before you’ve had time to think about the idea.’

Grace didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to upset Miles but neither was she prepared to be pushed into a decision she might come to regret. She waited until the door had closed before she turned to Harry again.

‘All right, I’m willing to admit that having you here would be a big help at the moment, but how come you happen to have so much free time on your hands? The last I heard you’d been appointed to some new government health committee. I’d have thought you would have had enough to do with that on top of your job at St Theresa’s.’

‘St Theresa’s has been undergoing a major refurbishment programme for the past two years. Obviously, we couldn’t close the whole hospital while the work was being done so we’ve had to shut each department in turn.’ He shrugged. ‘It’s our turn at the moment, so it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take some of the time I had owing to me.’

‘It won’t be much of a holiday if you end up working here,’ she pointed out.

‘Oh, I don’t know. They say that a change is as good as a rest, don’t they?’ he quipped, tipping back his chair and grinning at her.

It was the sort of smile that Grace had seen him bestow dozens of times before on some poor unsuspecting woman or other, but if Harry thought he could turn on the charm and get her to agree to his proposal, he was mistaken. Harry never did anything unless it furthered his own interests and she wasn’t about to let him fob her off with any nonsense.

‘I can’t see any point in trying to have a sensible discussion if that’s your attitude.’ She went to stand up then stopped when Harry leant across the desk. Her heart jolted when she saw how serious he looked. Normally, Harry treated life as a huge joke just there for his enjoyment and it was unsettling to see this other side of him for once.

‘I’m sorry. I know how you feel about me, Grace. I should do because you’ve always made it perfectly clear that you doubted my motives. So to answer your question properly, I happened to be in the area on business rather than on holiday. Working here for a couple of weeks won’t spoil my plans one little bit.’

He didn’t explain what sort of business had brought him all the way to Cumbria and Grace didn’t ask. What Harry did was of little interest to her, except where it impinged on her own life, of course.

‘I see. Now that your business has been concluded, you have some free time on your hands.’ Her brows rose steeply when he nodded. ‘That’s very altruistic of you, Harry. Not many people would offer to give up their time off like this.’

‘I just want to help. Miles told me about your locum leaving and what had happened to your practice nurse. You might feel that you can cope, Grace, but Miles obviously doesn’t share your confidence. Quite frankly, he sounded as though he’d reached the end of his tether last night. It’s obvious the two of you are under a tremendous amount of pressure and I think you need to take that into account before you turn me down.’

‘I don’t need you to remind me about the pressure we’re under,’ she snapped, because Harry had touched a nerve. Although she and Miles shared the responsibility of running the practice, she couldn’t ignore the fact that Miles had the added worry of Penny to contend with. Not for the first time Grace found herself thinking how fortunate she was not to have to worry about anyone else. She was single out of choice and happy with her life.

Or she was most of the time.

She wasn’t sure where that qualification had sprung from and quickly dismissed it. Thoughts like that would only clutter up her mind and that could prove disastrous when dealing with Harry. She sat down again and treated him to a look that was meant to prove she was in control of the situation. The problem was that Harry looked so worried that she couldn’t help feeling alarmed, too.

‘I’m not trying to start an argument with you, Grace. It might surprise you to learn that I didn’t come here tonight for a fight. I came because I was worried about Miles. Have you looked at him recently?’

‘Of course I have. I see him nearly every day of the week. What kind of a stupid question is that?’

‘I mean really looked at him.’ Harry sat back in his chair and regarded her thoughtfully. His blue eyes were so intent that Grace found it impossible to look away.

‘I didn’t realise there were different ways of looking at people,’ she snapped, because he was making her feel really uncomfortable now.

She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear then realised what she was doing. She wasn’t going to start worrying about how she looked because of Harry. No way, not in a million years. So what if she was wearing her oldest sweater—the one with the worn patches on the elbows—and a skirt that should have been sent to the charity shop months ago? And what did it matter if her nose was shiny and her hair needed brushing? She’d worked non-stop from the moment she’d arrived that morning and she’d been far too busy to worry about her appearance. Maybe Harry had the time to choose the perfect tie to go with his perfect shirt and perfect suit, but lesser mortals didn’t.

She opened her mouth to tell Harry that only he’d carried on speaking. Grace felt a tremor work its way from the tips of her toes to her knees when she heard what he was saying. She wanted to stop him but some perverse little imp inside her refused to coperate.

‘There’s dozens of ways of looking at people. It just depends who they are and what they mean to you. It also makes a difference how long it’s been since you saw them, too.’ Harry made a steeple with his fingers and studied her over the top of the spire. ‘Take you, for instance, Grace. It must be almost a year since we last saw each other and you look very different now from what you did then. Your hair is shorter for starters and although it suits you, I have to say that I think it’s a shame you’ve had it cut because that caramel-brown colour is so unusual. You’ve also lost weight. Not a lot, granted, but you’re definitely slimmer.’

‘Thank you, Harry. I think you’ve made your point now.’

Grace brusquely cut him off. She couldn’t explain it, but the fact that Harry had noticed the changes in her appearance made her feel very odd indeed. It was as though he was seeing her as a woman for the first time and she couldn’t pretend that it didn’t make her feel extremely conscious of her own femininity all of a sudden.

‘Then you understand what I’m getting at, don’t you?’ Mercifully, Harry seemed unaware of her dilemma as he continued. ‘You see Miles every day so you probably haven’t noticed the change in him, but I was shocked when I saw him last night. To be honest, I almost didn’t recognise him at first. He looks like he’s aged five years in the past twelve months.’

‘It’s been tough for Miles this past year,’ Grace conceded. She sighed when Harry’s brows rose. She could hardly refuse to explain that comment. Anyway, it might divert his interest away from her and that would be a blessing.

‘I don’t suppose I’m betraying any confidences because Miles has never made any secret of the fact that he and Penny have been having problems,’ she said quickly, not sure why she was so sensitive all of a sudden. She and Harry had traded enough insults to sink a fleet of battleships over the years and she couldn’t imagine why she should have been so alarmed by his comments.

‘Problems. You don’t mean with their marriage, do you?’

Harry sounded so shocked by the suggestion that she looked at him in surprise. ‘Of course not. Their marriage is rock solid and they’re really happy together. Everything would be perfect, in fact, if they could just have the family they’re both longing for, but Penny’s had problems conceiving. She had a miscarriage last year so now that she’s pregnant again, Miles is taking no chances. He’s insisted that she must rest as much as possible, but that means he’s been trying to do everything himself.’

‘Not easy when you’re so busy here,’ Harry agreed soberly. He sighed, his handsome face looking unaccustomedly sad. ‘It’s such a shame. Miles and Penny are the kind of people who make you want to believe in all that happily-ever-after nonsense. So many marriages fail that it’s nice to see a couple actually making a go of it.’

‘I never thought you’d be an advocate for marriage,’ Grace observed tartly, to hide her surprise. She’d never expected to hear Harry expounding on the joys of matrimony. It simply didn’t go with the image she had of him and it was unsettling to think that she might have to adjust her ideas.

‘Oh, I’m a great believer in the institution of marriage,’ he declared. ‘So long as I don’t have to get personally involved in promoting it as a lifestyle choice then I’m more than happy to give it my vote.’

‘Typical,’ Grace snorted. ‘Why would you want to spoil your fun by making a commitment to one woman when you can have your pick from dozens? I’m just surprised you found the time to come here tonight, Harry, when you could be using it so much more productively.’

‘Oh, the night is young yet and there’s plenty of time left for…pleasure.’

His deep voice lingered on the last word and the tiny hairs on the back of Grace’s neck sprang to attention. She had a sudden and far too vivid mental picture of how Harry might pleasure the latest woman in his life, so she quickly stood up. Harry might be prepared to sit here and play these silly games but she wasn’t going to play them with him.

‘How very nice for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to have a word with Miles before I make my decision.’

‘Of course. But take your time, Grace, and really think about what you’re doing. I’d hate you to turn down my offer and then regret it.’

Harry stood up as she came round the desk and she was forced to stop. He was several inches taller than she was so that she had to tip back her head to look at him. Maybe it was that which made her feel so vulnerable all of a sudden.

‘I want you to be sure in your own heart, Grace, that you really don’t want me here.’

Harry knew he shouldn’t tease Grace like that but it was hard to resist when she always rose so sweetly to his baiting. He hid his smile as he watched a dozen different expressions cross her face. She was trying to decide whether she should ignore him or tear a strip off him, and he realised with a sudden flash of insight that he didn’t mind which it was. Fighting with Grace was a whole lot more fun than making love had been with many of the women he’d dated over the past few years.

The thought caught him unawares so it was a relief when Grace swept past him without uttering a word. Harry went to the window after she’d left, wondering where the idea had sprung from. Grace Kennedy had been a pain in the butt ever since he’d met her on their first day at Oxford together. She’d taken an instant dislike to him and had never once missed the opportunity to goad him since then.

Harry had found himself responding in kind even though he’d known he should try to rise above such childish behaviour. It was just that Grace’s remarks had seemed to prick harder and more painfully than anyone else’s had done. She’d been one of the top students in their year so he’d told himself that it was competitiveness that had caused the problem: Grace had resented the fact that he was every bit as talented as she was and that was why she’d given him hell, and it had become a point of honour that he should retaliate. Now he found himself wondering if there was another reason why they’d kept up the sparring for all these years. Was it possible that he and Grace were attracted to each other?

He groaned. It was obviously a night for stupid thoughts. He didn’t seriously imagine that Grace found him attractive. They argued because she neither liked nor trusted him, and because he refused to do anything to improve her opinion of him. It made him see how difficult it would be for them to work together in such circumstances. It wouldn’t help poor Miles if he and Grace were constantly at odds.

He sighed as he stared across the empty car park. It was a blow to face that fact, when he’d thought that he’d found the ideal solution to his problems as well as Miles’s. He’d never got around to telling Miles last night the reason why he was in Cumbria. Miles had been so stressed that he hadn’t found the right moment to broach the subject, which was ironic, really, because this new health service committee he’d been appointed to had been set up specifically to find ways to relieve the pressure on rural GPs.

Harry had spoken to dozens of general practitioners over the past few weeks, but he still hadn’t been able to get a true picture of all the problems they faced. Few people liked to admit they couldn’t cope and GPs were no different to anyone else in that respect. He’d been hoping to get some truthful answers out of Miles, but once he’d learned about the difficulties his friend was experiencing, Harry had realised it was the opportunity he needed. If he offered to work at the surgery then not only would he be helping Miles but he’d be able to experience the pressures at first hand.

He’d decided to talk to Miles and Grace about it that evening, but now he could see how pointless it would be. Although he was confident that Miles would agree to his proposal, Grace certainly wouldn’t. She’d probably see it as a slight on the way they ran the practice and the last thing Harry wanted was to create a rift between the two partners. All things considered, it might be better if he told Miles that he’d changed his mind.

‘Can you phone for an ambulance?’

Grace came rushing back into the room. Harry felt his heart sink when he saw the expression on her face. ‘What’s wrong?’ he demanded as he watched her wrench open a cupboard door.

‘It’s Miles. I th-think h-he’s having a heart attack.’

Her voice caught and she bit her lip. Harry could see that her hands were shaking as she tried to take a syringe out of the box. He hurried across the room and took it from her then looked around.

‘Drugs?’

‘In that steel cabinet in the corner. Here’s the keys.’

She handed him a bunch of keys. Harry took them and quickly unlocked the cupboard. ‘You phone for an ambulance while I sort this out,’ he instructed, checking through the vials until he found what he needed.

‘Oh, but—’

‘For heavens sake, Grace, don’t waste time arguing. Just do it.’

He didn’t wait to see how she took that: there wasn’t time. He left her in the office and ran along the corridor, cursing under his breath because he’d forgotten to ask her where he would find Miles. Fortunately, there were only three other doors leading off the corridor and he found Miles propped up against the sink unit in the staffroom.

‘How’s it going, old man?’ Harry asked, dropping to his knees beside him.

‘I’ve had better days,’ Miles muttered, clutching his chest.

‘I’ll bet you have.’ Harry quickly rolled up his friend’s shirtsleeve and swabbed his arm then slid the needle into his vein. ‘There. That should ease the pain in a moment or two so let’s take a look at you.’

He took hold of Miles’s wrist and checked his pulse. It was a little fast but strong enough, and he smiled encouragingly at him. ‘Well, the old ticker’s still working away, you’ll be pleased to hear.’

‘Nice to know I’m not dead yet,’ Miles replied with a brave stab at humour.

‘Oh, there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet,’ Harry said airily, hoping he wasn’t tempting fate.

He carried on with his examination, looking for all the usual signs he would expect to find in a case of myocardial infarction, things like shortness of breath, sweating and an absence of colour in the skin. Miles was exhibiting all of those symptoms, worryingly enough, so Harry was relieved when Grace appeared to tell him the ambulance was on its way.

‘Good. Hospital’s the best place for you,’ he declared as Grace knelt down beside them. She lent forward to loosen the collar of Miles’s shirt and Harry sucked in his breath when he felt a stab of awareness hit him squarely in the gut as her shoulder brushed against his chest.

He hastily stood up. The last thing he needed was for his mind to start playing those tricks again. He didn’t fancy Grace any more than she fancied him. The pattern of their relationship had been set years ago and this definitely wasn’t the time to start altering it. He adopted a deliberately neutral expression when she glanced up because he didn’t intend to make the mistake of handing her any ammunition to use against him in the future.

‘The ambulance should be here soon but I’m worried they might not be able to find us,’ she explained anxiously. ‘It’s really dark at this end of the village and I’d hate them to miss the turning and drive straight past.’

‘I’ll go and wait by the gates so I can flag them down,’ Harry offered, relieved to have something to do. ‘You stay here and look after Miles.’

‘Thanks, Harry. That would be a real help. I appreciate it.’

It was the first time Harry could remember her ever speaking to him with any warmth in her voice. As he left the kitchen, he found himself marvelling at the effect it’d had. He wanted to leap up and punch the air as though he’d scored a major victory, although he had no idea why. Grace had merely treated him on a par with everyone else. She’d spoken to him as a normal human being instead of as her worst enemy. Why that should be a cause for celebration, he couldn’t imagine.

He left the surgery and headed down the drive. It was a bitterly cold night and his overcoat was still hanging on the back of the consulting-room door, but he never noticed the discomfort. His head seemed to be whirling, thoughts spinning around inside it like the bits of coloured glass whizzing about inside that kaleidoscope he’d had as a kid. One thought suddenly caught and took shape.

Sparring with Grace had been a lot of fun, but what would it be like if they could talk to each other and discover all the things they had in common?

The idea dissolved before he could attempt to deal with it and another took its place.

And if they did achieve a degree of harmony, then wouldn’t it be a shame to stop there? After all, Grace was a beautiful woman and he’d never denied that, so wouldn’t it be great if they could establish a more intimate relationship…

The wail of a siren came as a blessing in more ways than one. As he flagged down the ambulance, Harry felt like a condemned man must feel on receiving a last-minute pardon. He had no idea what was prompting all these crazy thoughts but one thing was certain: he and Grace would never have that kind of a relationship.

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‘WHY doesn’t someone come and tell us what’s happening?’

‘These things take time, Penny, so try not to worry. They’ll let us know how Miles is just as soon as they can.’

Grace put a comforting arm around Penny’s shoulders but the long wait was taking its toll on her, too. She glanced at her watch and sighed when she realised that over an hour had passed since Miles had been admitted to the emergency department of their local hospital. She’d travelled in the ambulance with him while Harry had gone to fetch Penny. He’d seemed to take it for granted that he would stay with them, and Grace had to admit that she’d been glad of his support. Harry seemed to have the knack of knowing the right thing to say to calm Penny down so now she glanced at him and raised her brows.

‘Grace is right, sweetheart. You must try not to worry.’ Harry obviously took the hint because he got up and came over to them. ‘You know how long it takes to get a heart tracing and do all the bloods and everything else.’

‘I know, and I’m sorry, but it’s just so hard to sit here when I don’t even know if Miles…If he’s…he’s….’ Penny stopped and gulped, unable to give voice to her very worst fears.

‘If anything awful had happened to Miles, they’d have come and told you.’ Harry crouched down and took hold of Penny’s hands. ‘You remember the drill, don’t you? You should do because you were an A and E nurse for long enough. You inform the relatives immediately if it’s bad news. It’s one of the unwritten rules.’

‘I remember,’ Penny whispered, dredging up a smile. ‘It’s just so different when you’re the one waiting to hear something.’

‘I know, sweetheart, but you must try to be strong for Miles and for your baby.’

He leant forward and kissed Penny’s cheek. Grace felt a lump come to her throat. This wasn’t Harry Shaw using his legendary charm to his own ends but a bona fide show of concern, and there was no denying that it had touched her deeply to witness it.

‘I’ll try. Thank you, Harry. And you, too, Grace.’ Penny took hold of Grace’s hand and placed it on top of Harry’s. ‘You two are the best. I don’t know what I’d have done without you both tonight.’

Grace’s heartbeat quickened when she felt the warmth of Harry’s hand beneath her palm. She desperately wanted to pull away but she didn’t want to risk upsetting Penny. She sat quite still, praying that Harry couldn’t feel how fast her pulse was racing. This is just a moment of friendship, she told herself firmly. Penny needs it to help her through this difficult time. However, it was hard to focus on that thought when she was so conscious of the warmth of Harry’s flesh beneath her own. It was a relief when a nurse appeared because it meant that she could quite legitimately break the contact.

‘Mrs Farrington?’ The nurse smiled as Penny hastily identified herself. ‘You can see your husband now.’

‘Is he all right?’ Penny demanded, jumping to her feet.

‘He’s fine. Dr Williams will explain everything if you’ll just follow me.’

‘Yes, of course.’ Penny hurried to the door then paused and looked back. ‘Will you stay? I know it’s late but I don’t think I can face being here on my own.’

‘We’ll be right here, waiting for you, Penny,’ Grace assured her. She let out a sigh of relief after the door closed. ‘Doesn’t sound as though the prognosis is too grim. Do you think Miles really did have an infarc?’

‘It’s hard to say for certain without seeing the ECG tracings,’ Harry replied, going over to the coffee-machine. ‘It could have been an angina attack, I suppose. The symptoms are very similar.’

‘Mmm, you could be right.’ Grace frowned as she considered that possibility. ‘Miles is rather young to be suffering from angina, although it’s not unknown. Most patients are in their fifties when they first exhibit any symptoms but there are cases of men as young as thirty being diagnosed with angina.’

‘It’s not just confined to men either. More and more women are presenting with angina nowadays,’ Harry observed, feeding coins into the machine.

‘That’s true. Women are having more heart attacks than they used to. It’s all down to a change in lifestyle and the fact that people are eating more convenience food and not taking enough exercise.’ She sighed. ‘I try to drum it into our patients that they need to exercise and watch their diet, but they just think I’m nagging.’

‘Until they have a heart attack and realise that you were telling them the truth all along.’ Harry handed her a cup of tepid coffee and sat down. ‘Then they’re desperate to undo all the years of neglect.’

‘Something like that,’ she agreed, sipping the coffee and grimacing at the powdery aftertaste it left on her tongue. She put the cup on the table and looked at him. ‘How come you’re so clued up about heart disease?’

‘Because it’s all part and parcel of being a physician.’ Harry took a swallow of his coffee then sighed. ‘If I had a pound for every man and woman I’ve seen heading for a heart attack, I’d be able to retire. What is it about people that makes them ignore all the advice we give them and carry on doing the wrong things?’

‘Stubbornness?’ she suggested with a grin because he sounded so frustrated. ‘Folk hate to be told what to do. They want to live their lives the way they chose to.’

‘And to hell with the consequences.’ His tone was wry. ‘Only, when something does go wrong, they expect us to come up with a solution.’

‘I don’t know why you sound so surprised. Didn’t you realise that we’re supposed to perform miracles? It’s part of our remit, along with all the other things a doctor is supposed to do.’

‘Well, I for one am right out of miracles,’ Harry declared, swinging his feet onto the coffee-table. ‘I’m only a humble physician, don’t forget, not a surgeon. It’s the surgeons who are closest to God, not the likes of you and me.’

Grace burst out laughing. ‘I never thought I’d hear you admit that. I thought you believed that you had a direct line to heaven.’

‘Sorry to disappoint you but I’m under no illusions.’ He lifted the cup to his lips, watching her over the rim. ‘I’m just a guy who wants to help people, Grace. That’s all I’ve ever been.’

Grace felt a shiver run down her spine and quickly looked away. She couldn’t explain it, but there was something about the way Harry had said it that convinced her he’d been telling the truth. Harry didn’t see himself as some sort of all-powerful being but as a man who wanted to help others less fortunate than himself, and it was a revelation to realise it.

She’d had Harry summed up from the moment she’d met him: a rich playboy whose only aim in life was to have a good time and cover himself in glory. Now that image had started to go all fuzzy around the edges and it was alarming to realise that she might have been wrong about him all this time. It was a relief when he changed the subject.

‘Anyway, getting back to Miles. Even if he hasn’t had an infarc, it’s doubtful he’ll be fit enough to return to work for some time, so what are you going to do? My offer still stands, if you’re interested.’

‘I’ll bear it in mind.’ Grace flushed when his brows rose. It was obvious that her less-than-enthusiastic response hadn’t been lost on him. However, she didn’t intend to apologise because she had reservations about him working at the surgery.

‘I’d prefer to wait and see what the verdict is on Miles first before I decide what to do,’ she told him coolly.

‘Fine. It’s up to you, of course.’ Harry drained his cup then swung his feet off the table and stood up. ‘I think I’ll go outside for a bit of fresh air. It’s stifling in here. I won’t be long—ten minutes max.’

‘You don’t have to stay,’ she said quickly, hoping he couldn’t tell how eager she was all of a sudden for him to leave. Oh, it had been fine while Penny had been there, she’d been very glad of Harry’s company then. However, it was different now they were on their own. In the past half-hour she’d learned things about him that she’d never dreamed might be true, and it had unsettled her to have to adjust her view of him. How much more unsettling would it be if they continued the conversation throughout the night?

‘Why do I have a feeling that you’re trying to get rid of me?’ Harry turned to look at her and Grace’s heart missed a beat when she saw the speculation in his eyes.

‘I’ve no idea.’ She shrugged, hoping he couldn’t tell how desperate she was for him to leave. ‘Maybe it’s because you find it hard to believe that I’ll be able to manage without your manly shoulder to lean on? Well, don’t worry, Harry. I’ll be perfectly fine on my own so you can leave with a clear conscience. I’m sure you must have more interesting things to do with your evening than spend it hanging around a hospital waiting room.’

‘The only plans I have for this evening involve bed.’ He laughed when he saw her mouth purse. ‘Tut, tut, Grace, what are you thinking? I meant that I was planning on having an early night—alone.’ He opened the door and winked at her. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. You can count on it.’

Grace ground her teeth, wishing that she’d never said anything. All she’d succeeded in doing had been to make herself look foolish—not that it was the first time, of course. Where Harry was concerned she invariably found herself saying the wrong thing, which was why she usually resorted to squabbling with him. It was easier to fight with him than run the risk of falling under his spell.

The thought alarmed her so much that she leapt to her feet. Her heart was pounding as she left the waiting room to go and find Penny because there was no way that she could deny the truth. In the past ten years she’d done everything in her power to shut Harry out of her life. That was why she’d lobbed insults at him, goaded him and accused him of all manner of things. She’d seen how charming he could be, how witty and how much fun, and she’d been afraid that he would somehow…well, seduce her.

That was the last thing she wanted to happen. She’d witnessed at first hand how destructive love could be, had watched as her mother’s life had been torn apart as her father had indulged in one affair after another, and she’d sworn it would never happen to her. That’s why she rarely dated and never went out with any man who reminded her of her father—a man exactly like Harry, in fact. But tonight she’d lowered her guard and Harry had been every bit as charming as she’d feared he would be. Now she was unable to think of him simply as a womanising Lothario. There were depths to Harry that she’d never suspected.

‘I get off at eleven so why don’t you give me a call? I’m a real night-owl and never go to bed until after midnight…unless I have a really good reason, of course.’

Grace stopped dead when she heard voices up ahead. She peered along the dimly lit corridor and spotted a couple tucked into the alcove next to the pay-phone. She recognised Harry immediately, although it took a moment longer before she realised that the young woman with him was the nurse who’d come to fetch Penny. There were no prizes for guessing what they were up to, however.

Grace’s eyes narrowed as she studied their body language which, quite frankly, should have been X-rated. The way that young nurse was simpering up at Harry was positively obscene. As for Harry—well, he seemed to be lapping it up as though it was his due. Had he used the excuse that he’d needed some fresh air so he could track down the nurse and make his move on her? Grace wondered in disgust. Well, if that was the case, she certainly wasn’t going to cramp his style.

She spun round and marched back to the waiting room, slamming the door behind her with enough force to make the window rattle in its frame. She couldn’t believe what a fool she’d been. For a few minutes she’d actually believed that she’d been wrong about Harry, and the thought of how easily he had duped her made her want to spit tacks. Leopards never changed their spots. Harry Shaw had been a womanising Lothario when she’d first met him, and he was exactly the same now.

‘I’m not really sure what’s happening tonight.’

Harry tried to edge away but the nurse had effectively trapped him in the alcove. He glanced along the corridor when he heard a door slam, hoping that someone would come along and rescue him. However, his hopes were dashed when nobody appeared. He sighed under his breath. He would just have to extricate himself.

‘I’ll probably end up staying here until all hours of the morning and I couldn’t possibly expect you to wait up for my call.’

He treated the girl to his most charming smile, desperately wishing that he didn’t have this effect on women. Although it sounded arrogant to say so, it had always been the same—they fell for his looks and the fact that he was wealthy. While it had been fun when he had been younger, he’d grown weary of being viewed merely as an object of their lust.

He wanted a proper relationship now, not the kind of shallow alliance that was based solely on sex. He wanted a relationship in which he could share his innermost thoughts and feelings. The kind of rapport, in fact, that he’d enjoyed tonight with Grace before she’d gone all prickly on him again.

The thought caught him completely off guard. Harry found himself floundering when the nurse asked if he had a pen so she could write down her telephone number for him. He gave it to her then waited in silence while she scribbled the number on a bit of paper and tucked it in his top pocket. Mercifully, the ward sister appeared at that point and summoned her back to work so he was able to make his escape, but he couldn’t deny that he felt completely out of kilter as he made his way back to the waiting room.

Why did he keep having all these strange thoughts about Grace? Was it just the fact that she’d treated him differently that night—talked to him, laughed with him, behaved as though he wasn’t the lowest form of pond life? He wasn’t convinced that was the reason why he was behaving so strangely, but he felt unusually nervous as he went into the room.

‘Any news yet?’ he asked, striving for a measure of calm.

‘You tell me.’ Grace treated him to a smile so cold that it could have reversed the effects of global warming, and Harry frowned.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘Work it out for yourself. It shouldn’t be that difficult for an intelligent man like you, Harry.’

She picked up a magazine and proceeded to ignore him as she flicked through its pages. Harry sighed because he really wasn’t in the mood to play games with her at the moment.

‘Look, Grace, I apologise if I’ve done something to upset you—’ he began, but she didn’t let him finish. Tossing the magazine onto the table, she glared at him.

‘I am not upset. If you want to chat up every single woman in this hospital then good luck to you. However, I do object to being told a pack of lies. If you wanted to go and find that nurse, why didn’t you say so? I’m hardly going to fall down in a heap because you’re chatting up some woman.’

So that was it. Harry felt a wave of relief wash over him. Grace must have seen him talking to that nurse and assumed he’d engineered the meeting. He hastened to reassure her, even though he wasn’t sure why it was so important that she knew what had really gone on.

‘I did go out for some fresh air. I just happened to bump into Cathy on my way back, that’s all.’

‘Oh, so it’s Cathy, is it? Obviously, you didn’t waste any time getting acquainted with her.’

Grace treated him to another of those icy smiles and he sighed again. It was obvious that she didn’t believe he was the innocent party.

‘Just because I know her name doesn’t mean that your allegations are true,’ he pointed out in his most reasonable tone. ‘It happened exactly as I told you. I was coming back inside when she stopped me.’ He shrugged. ‘I couldn’t just ignore her, could I?’

‘Of course not. I mean, it would have been unthinkable to tell her that you were far too worried about your friend to think about your…uh…other needs.’

Her voice dripped with scorn and Harry gritted his teeth. It took a massive effort of will to damp down his anger, but he really and truly didn’t want to fight with her right now.

Was that what she was trying to do? he wondered. Poke and prod at him until he retaliated? He sensed it was true yet he couldn’t understand why she would do such a thing. Unless she was afraid that if they didn’t argue, she might be forced to admit that she was jealous of the attention he’d been paying the other woman.

The thought was so mind-bogglingly complicated that he didn’t know how to handle it. He was still struggling, in fact, when the door opened and Penny appeared. Grace jumped up, ignoring him as she led Penny to a chair and sat her down.

‘How is Miles?’ she demanded, sitting beside her.

‘Much better than I feared.’ Penny gave them a wobbly smile. ‘They’re fairly sure that he suffered an angina attack rather than a full-blown myocardial infarction. The resting ECG tracing shows no sign of damage to his heart but they want to do more tests tomorrow—get Miles onto the treadmill to see how his heart responds during exercise. The consultant I spoke to seems fairly confident that it was a coronary artery spasm, though.’

‘Probably brought on by the pressure that Miles has been under recently,’ Harry observed, relieved to have something to focus on other than what Grace might or might not be thinking. ‘Let’s face it, Miles has been running himself ragged of late. It was just a matter of time before something like this happened.’

‘I know, and that’s why I’m determined that he’s going to have a complete rest.’ Penny took a deep breath then looked at him and Grace. ‘I know you two have had your differences in the past, but if you could just put them aside for now, you could actually be saving Miles’s life. He needs complete rest and the only way he’ll get it is if he knows the practice is being taken care of. I know it’s a lot to ask, but do you think you two could manage to work together for the next couple of weeks?’

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HARRY knew that if Penny had asked him that question a couple of hours ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated. He would have told her quite emphatically that there wouldn’t be a problem. Now he was no longer sure if it was the truth. Could he really imagine himself working with Grace when just a few hours of her company had caused such an upheaval in his life?

‘I…um…well…’ he stumbled as his usual composure deserted him.

‘I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate.’ There were tears in Penny’s eyes now as she looked up at him. ‘I just can’t bear to think of anything happening to Miles, especially now.’

She laid her hand protectively on her stomach and Harry knew he was sunk. How could he turn his back on his two oldest friends when they needed his help so desperately? He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if anything happened to Miles or this precious baby, so he would have to agree and simply hope that he and Grace could get through the coming weeks relatively unscathed.

He turned to Grace, praying that she couldn’t tell how uneasy he felt at the thought of their forthcoming alliance. ‘I’m willing to give it a shot if you are.’ He held out his hand. ‘So, shall we call a truce?’

An expression which looked almost like panic crossed her face before she quickly stood up. ‘All right. I’m willing to meet you halfway, if it means we’re helping Miles and Penny.’

Harry smiled wryly. It hadn’t been panic at all, but Grace being her usual cautious self. It was typical of her to qualify her agreement like that, to make sure he knew that she was accepting his offer purely for the sake of their friends. She would never admit to any sign of weakness in front of him, never acknowledge that she, too, would benefit from his help in the surgery. She would never give an inch if it meant he might gain any ground, and maybe it was that thought that made him decide to seal their agreement with more than the customary handshake. The thought of getting a little further under Grace’s skin was oddly appealing.

He took her outstretched hand but instead of shaking it, as she’d expected him to do, he pulled her towards him and kissed her on the cheek. ‘Sealed with a kiss. There’s no going back on our pact now, Grace.’

He let her go, hoping she couldn’t tell the effect the kiss had had on him. It was his own fault for trying to goad her, but it had been ages since he’d felt this stirring in his blood, so long, in fact, that he’d begun to wonder if it would ever happen again. Yet all it had taken had been the touch of his lips against her skin and he was all fired up and raring to go. What was happening to him? Did he fancy Grace, or was he going completely crazy?

‘I wouldn’t dream of going back on a promise,’ Grace said stiffly. She turned to Penny, trying to resist the urge to run her hand over her cheek. She could feel the lingering warmth of Harry’s lips making her skin tingle and longed to erase it, but there was no way that she was going to let him think that the kiss had had any effect on her.

‘It looks as though your problem has been solved, Penny. Now there’s no excuse for Miles not to follow his consultant’s advice.’

‘And I intend to make sure he follows it to the letter.’ Penny stood up and hugged her. ‘Thank you so much, Grace. And you, too, Harry. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you both.’

‘Don’t mention it.’ Harry treated them to one of his most charming smiles, the kind of smile that normally made Grace grind her teeth. The fact that she didn’t feel like grinding them now just increased her anxiety. What on earth was going on? Why did she feel all warm and sort of…breathless just because Harry was smiling at her? She was still trying to work out the answer when he opened the waiting-room door.

‘I won’t be long. There’s something I need to do before we leave.’

‘Hmm, that something wouldn’t have anything to do with a pretty blonde nurse who’s been extolling your virtues to all and sundry, would it?’ Penny laughed when he looked suitably modest. ‘You never change, Harry. You’ll still have women queuing up outside your door when you’re ninety.’

‘With a bit of luck.’

He winked at them then left, and it was a good job he went when he did. Grace knew that if he’d stayed there even a second longer, she would have been tempted to throw something at him. Maybe Penny found his womanising antics amusing but she thought they were pathetic.

‘Grace, what’s wrong? Are you feeling all right?’

She jumped when Penny touched her on the arm, and dredged up a smile when she saw the concern on her friend’s face. ‘I’m fine.’

‘Are you sure?’ Penny looked increasingly worried despite the reassurance. ‘I shouldn’t have done that, should I? I know how you feel about Harry and it was wrong of me to force you into a corner like that.’

‘You didn’t force me, Penny. It was my decision and I’m perfectly happy with it.’ Grace held her smile, although it felt as though her face was about to split into two. However, she had to convince Penny that she was telling the truth, otherwise her friend would continue to worry.

‘Harry and I are both grown-ups and we can handle working together without World War Three breaking out. In fact, I’m rather looking forward to it.’

‘You are?’ Penny looked at her in surprise.

‘Mmm. Harry’s got bags of experience and I’ll learn a lot from him,’ Grace assured her, hoping the words wouldn’t choke her.

‘Yes, of course you will, although it won’t be all one-sided,’ Penny said loyally. ‘You’re a brilliant doctor in your own right, Grace, so I expect Harry will learn just as much from you.’

Grace didn’t say anything to that. However, as she followed Penny from the room so they could go and tell Miles the good news, she found herself wondering exactly what she had in her repertoire of skills which would be of interest to Harry. There certainly wasn’t anything on the romance front that she could teach him—he was an acknowledged expert in that field. As for her medical skills, well, he could probably match her any day of the week.

No, the only thing she could possibly teach him was humility, although it was a lesson the mighty Harry Shaw might not be keen to learn. When you’ve been at the top of the heap all your life, thinking that you are the same as everyone else wouldn’t come easily, although that wasn’t what Harry had claimed earlier that night. He’d described himself as a man who just wanted to help others, hadn’t he?

Grace shivered. She couldn’t explain it, certainly couldn’t understand it, but she knew the assertion had altered the way she thought about Harry. It was as though there was suddenly something in the plus column to weigh against all those minuses that had accumulated over the years. Although she hated to admit it, Harry might not be all bad after all.

‘I’ve done a printout of all the clinics we hold each month. I thought it would help if you had an idea of our schedule.’

‘Thanks.’

Harry took the list from Grace and glanced through it. His brows rose when he suddenly realised the extent of the work she and Miles had been doing. Nearly every single afternoon was filled with things like the mother-and-baby clinics, antenatal clinics and clinics for people who were trying to stop smoking or lose weight. Add all of those to the regular morning and evening surgeries and it seemed his life was going to be extremely full for the next few weeks.

‘You certainly offer a very complete service here,’ he observed, leaning back in his chair. It was just gone eight a.m. and they were in Miles’s office—the office Harry would be using while he was working there. Although it had been after midnight when he’d dropped Grace off at her house in the village, she had telephoned him before seven that morning to ask him if he would meet her at the surgery.

Harry had agreed immediately, even though he’d been fast asleep when she’d phoned. However, it had seemed like a point of honour not to let the side down so he had dragged himself out of bed and into the shower, and, by skipping breakfast, had managed to get to the surgery a couple of minutes before she’d arrived. He could have murdered for a cup of coffee but he’d be damned if he would show any sign of weakness by suggesting they should stop for a drink. If Grace could keep up this punishing schedule then so could he.

‘We do our best to fulfil all our patients’ needs,’ she said briskly, taking another sheet of paper out of her file. ‘This is a list of our contacts at the local hospital. Obviously, you can request an appointment for a patient through the usual channels, but we find it speeds things up if we approach the head of each department on a personal basis.’ She shrugged. ‘A phone call is all it usually takes so it doesn’t require that much extra effort.’

‘It must add up, though.’ Harry frowned as he took the sheet from her. ‘I know how difficult it is to get hold of people so I doubt one phone call would do it. You must have to phone back several times.’

‘Miles and I tend to make any phone calls after morning surgery finishes. That way we can catch people during their lunch-break and keep to our timetable.’

‘I see.’ Harry didn’t say anything else as he placed the list on top of the other one. He was there to help, not to question how the practice was run. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help thinking that it was no wonder Miles was so stressed when he was cramming so much into his day. Morning surgeries, evening surgeries, clinics, phone calls—he wouldn’t have time to draw breath.

‘How long do you allow for each consultation?’ he asked, opting for a less controversial topic.

‘We allocate ten minutes per patient, more if it’s someone we know we will have to spend extra time with.’

‘That’s quite generous,’ he observed, recalling what other GPs had told him recently. ‘Most practices allow six minutes per patient and try to get away with less than that if they can.’

‘We find it’s a false economy to cut corners. If you don’t spend time getting to the root of a problem, invariably the patient ends up having to come back to see you.’

‘It’s a valid point, although I suppose it depends on how many patients you book in for each surgery,’ he conceded, making a note to add it to his report. If more time was spent at the initial assessment stage then a second appointment might be avoided, and that was bound to be of help to an overworked GP. ‘What’s your maximum number of appointments per session?’

‘We don’t have a set limit. Both morning and evening surgeries are run on an open-door basis—in other words, if someone needs to see us they just turn up on the day.’

‘But that’s crazy. You could have the whole village turning up and have to see them.’

‘I doubt it. Most people around here are too busy to waste their time by making unnecessary trips to see the doctor.’ She shrugged. ‘We find it works so I see no reason to change the routine. But if you find the pace too much for you, you only have to say so. I can deal with any patients you aren’t able to see.’

‘I am more than happy to do my share of the work,’ he said flatly. He knew that she was trying to goad him but he wasn’t going to fall into that trap again. No matter what Grace said or did from now on, he wasn’t going to rise to the bait.

‘Then we won’t have a problem, will we?’ She stood up and came around the desk, pausing as she drew level with him. ‘Is there anything else you need to know? I think I’ve covered more or less everything to do with the day-to-day routine, but if there’s anything you’re not clear about then say so.’

‘No, it all seems fairly straightforward.’

He stood up as well, feeling a tremor pass through him when his arm accidentally brushed against hers as he pushed back his chair. It immediately reminded him of what had happened the night before, and he sighed.

He still couldn’t understand why that kiss had made such an impression on him. He’d been so afraid that Grace would notice something was wrong that he’d been desperate to get away. When Penny had assumed that he was going to look for that nurse, he hadn’t bothered correcting her because it had seemed the easiest way to resolve his dilemma. Now, however, he found himself wishing that he hadn’t let Grace believe that he was interested in the young woman. Maybe it was silly to be so sensitive but he wouldn’t want her to think that he was more concerned with his love life than doing a good job here.

‘Look, Grace, about that nurse last night—’

‘Please.’ She held up her hand, her beautiful mouth curling in distaste. ‘Too much information, Harry. What you do in your free time is your business. I really don’t want to hear all the gory details.’

She swept past him, leaving him feeling completely dumbfounded. Did she honestly think that he was crass enough to discuss his sex life with her? His spirits sank as he realised what a low opinion she must have of him. That he was more than partly to blame for it made him feel even worse. He should have put an end to their squabbling years ago.

Grace hurried into her consulting room and closed the door. She’d been dreading seeing Harry that morning and it had turned out to be every bit as bad as she’d feared. It had been hard enough to maintain her composure when he’d seen fit to criticise the way she and Miles ran the practice, but when he’d started to tell her about his nightly exploits with that nurse…Well!

Heat swept through her and she clutched hold of the doorknob. She didn’t want to think about Harry’s sex life but she couldn’t seem to control the images that were crowding into her head, pictures of him and that nurse curled up in bed together—only it wasn’t the nurse. She’d had blonde hair and the woman in her mind’s eye had brown hair, caramel brown, just like hers…

Grace leapt away from the door and hurried to her desk. She must be more tired than she’d realised if she was dreaming up rubbish like that. It would be a cold day in hell before Harry Shaw got her into his bed.

She’d just switched on her computer when Janet, their receptionist, popped her head round the door to ask if she wanted a cup of coffee. Grace smiled gratefully. ‘Yes, please. I didn’t have time to make myself a drink before I left home this morning.’

Janet shook her head. ‘You should eat a proper breakfast before you come into work. You need to keep your strength up. Why did you have to be here so early, anyway? I saw you drive past my house when I was fetching in the milk and it wasn’t even eight o’clock at the time.’

Grace sighed as she realised that Janet had no idea what had happened to Miles. She quickly explained the situation to her, stressing the fact that Miles should make a full recovery when she saw how upset the receptionist was. Everyone in the village loved Miles and she knew that a lot of people would be upset when they heard the news.

‘So what are you going to do?’ Janet asked, wiping away a tear. ‘I mean, you can’t manage all on your own. There’s far too much work for just one person.’

‘Which is why we’ve enlisted one of our friends to help until Miles is feeling better.’

Grace drummed up a smile, knowing that she couldn’t let anyone suspect that she had doubts about working with Harry. If the patients had any inkling of how uneasy she felt about this alliance, they would have no confidence in Harry. ‘Dr Shaw has offered to cover until Miles is feeling better, and I have to say that I think we’re very lucky to have him. He’s a superb physician and I know that our patients are going to receive the best possible care.’

She glanced up when a movement outside the door caught her attention, and blushed when she saw Harry was standing there, listening to what she was saying. He grinned at her as he came into the room, his blue eyes full of laughter and something else, something that made her feel all hot and shivery, as though she was running a fever. Having Harry look at her as though he was genuinely delighted by her comments was the last thing she’d expected. She wanted to run over to him and tell him that every word had been true, but how could she when she knew what he was really like?

Harry Shaw was a womanising Lothario. He didn’t do anything unless it furthered his own career and brought him personal glory.

Grace made herself recite all the reasons why she disliked Harry but they no longer seemed to have the impact they’d had in the past. It all sounded very airy-fairy now, as though they were excuses, not genuine reasons. Did she truly believe that was all there was to Harry, or was she desperately trying to hold onto her old prejudices because she was afraid to face the truth? That Harry was a damned fine doctor who had worked incredibly hard to reach his present exalted position.

She didn’t want to admit that she might have been wrong about him, but nothing seemed certain any more. The boundaries that had been drawn when they’d been students seemed to be breaking down, and Harry was no longer on one side and she on the other. For the next few weeks they would be working together as a team and, quite frankly, Grace didn’t know how she was going to cope. She had a feeling that once Harry crossed that final boundary, her life would be changed for ever.

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‘IF YOU would pop Bethany on the couch and take off her top and pants, I can examine her. I see from her notes that she was complaining of pains in her legs when you brought her in to see Dr Farrington at the beginning of December. How is she now?’

Harry pulled back the screen and waited while Mrs Clarke settled her daughter on the examination couch. Five-year-old Bethany looked very pale and listless as her mother undressed her.

‘Much the same. She still keeps saying that her legs are sore. Dr Farrington said it was probably a virus because there were a lot of kiddies ill at the time with some bug or other. But it should have cleared up by now, I would have thought.’

‘These things can take time to work themselves out of the system,’ Harry explained, although it was unusual for a child to be ill for this length of time if it was only a viral infection. ‘Can you just explain how it all started? I’ve read Bethany’s notes but it’s better to have a first-hand account, I find.’

‘Well, it’s like I said, Beth kept telling me her legs were hurting. I just assumed she’d hurt them when she’d been climbing the trees in our back garden so I didn’t take that much notice at first.’ Mrs Clarke sighed. ‘She has three older brothers, you see, and she’s always trying to copy them and getting into mischief.’

‘A real little tomboy, are you, young lady?’ Harry smiled at the little girl, although he had to admit that there didn’t seem much sign of any mischief that day. Bethany appeared far too listless to cause any trouble. Bending down, he examined her legs, frowning when he saw that they were covered in bruises.

‘How did she get all these bruises?’ he asked, glancing at the mother.

‘I’ve no idea. I only spotted them at the weekend. If she’d been playing outside, I would have assumed she’d fallen over and hurt herself, but she’s not wanted to leave the house since Christmas.’ Mrs Clarke stroked her daughter’s hair. ‘She keeps saying that she’s too tired to play and it’s just not like her. That’s why I decided to bring her to the surgery again today. It’s not natural for a child this age to be complaining that she’s tired all the time, is it, Doctor?’

‘Not if she’s getting the right amount of sleep at night,’ Harry agreed, moving to the top of the couch. He gently felt around Bethany’s neck and under her arms, hiding his dismay when he discovered how enlarged the lymph nodes were in those areas. Although he would have expected to find some sign of enlargement if Bethany’s body was fighting off an infection, this degree of swelling was unusual. It could be a sign that there was something seriously wrong with the child, although he didn’t intend to rush to any conclusions. He would spend an extra few minutes checking the facts, as Grace had advised him to do.

The thought of Grace sent a rush of heat along his veins. He had to make a determined effort to ignore it as he carried on with his examination. ‘Has Bethany complained of pain anywhere else, or have you noticed anything unusual happening recently?’ he asked, trying not to dwell on how good it had felt to hear Grace praise him like that. He knew that in all likelihood it had been necessity that had prompted those comments: she’d wanted the receptionist to think that she was happy to work with him so it wouldn’t cause any unrest within the practice. However, he couldn’t deny that it had been a boost to his ego to hear her say something good about him for a change.

‘Not really. It’s been her legs mainly that she’s been complaining about.’

‘And there’s been nothing else bothering her?’ he insisted gently, sensing that the mother was holding something back.

‘Well, it’s probably nothing. I told her dad about it but he just said I was fussing so I wasn’t going to mention it, but her gums have been bleeding. It’s not just when she cleans her teeth either, which is why I thought it was a bit odd.’

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